Proper nutrition fuels the exercise experience. You need proper nutrition before, during and after to prepare, make it through, and recover. Nutrition brings the whole experience full circle.
Carbohydrates, protein, fats and hydration fuel fitness in different ways and at different times. Gaining an understanding of how to adjust each to your exercise routine could make the difference in safety, mood, efficiency, and even results.
To avoid stomach upset, you want to give your body about 3 to 4 hours to transport a meal out of the stomach before moderate and vigorous exercise.
Carbohydrates are the primary food fuel for energy. Let’s get dirty nerdy for a second. When digestion occurs, glycogen is formed from glucose. The body will then either use it immediately or store it in the liver and muscles for energy later.
As you exercise, your body pulls from this energy storage as fuel for muscle movements. It is preferred by the body for short, intense movements.
When you exercise super hard your glycogen stores are likely depleted. They will need to be replenished.
If replenishment is needed and you are participating in prolonged exercise, blood glucose becomes the primary fuel source. It can be obtained through sports drinks or snacks that contain 30-60g of rapidly absorbed carbs for every hour of training.
Protein for fuel during a workout is often underestimated and typically associated with muscle recovery after a workout or bulking up muscles. Protein fuel focuses more on using glucose stored in the muscle.
When glucose is stored in the muscle it must use the glucose-alanine pathway to make it to the liver so that it can be converted back to glucose for release into blood circulation.
When this glucose is released it can then be used as fuel for the working muscles. Protein is used for fuel in this manner typically during prolonged or intense exercise and helps to prevent hypoglycemia.
Fat is also a source of stored energy, but it does not provide that energy as quickly as glycogen. It is primarily stored in fat cells as triglycerides and a small portion is stored in muscle cells.
Triglycerides are then broken down in free fatty acids and glycerol. Eventually those FFA can be further broken down into energy. This is typically the case during low intensity exercise.
Hydration is key not only during exercise but before and after as well.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the United States Track and Field Association have developed the following fluid intake guidelines:
- 17-20oz two hours prior to exercise;
- 7-10oz every 10-20 minutes during exercise or preferably drink based on sweat losses;
- 16-24oz following exercise for every pound lost
Something important to mention here is excessive hydration. It can result in a condition called hyponatremia in which the sodium levels are dangerously low. You can read more about hyponatremia here.
The type of hydration you choose may depend on the intensity and duration of the workout. You may need to focus more on glucose and electrolytes replenishment as opposed to plain water.
Eating and hydrating correctly after a workout is so important. A study in December 2010 by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism stated that restoring glycogen after exhaustive exercise was paramount to muscle recovery times. (add info about the other macros and hydration here).
Meal preparation is key!
Even if you just keep in mind what you are going to eat post workout and stick to it. This is not only healthy and convenient, but is of important significance to those of us who train on consecutive days. Meal prep can certainly seem intimidating, but if you start to incorporate it into your lifestyle change over time it becomes routine.
Are you nourishing your body properly throughout a workout? Leave a comment and let me know! I would love to hear your take on this.
Thanks for hanging out with me!
PIN THIS POST!